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Ocimum tenuiflorum


Ocimum tenuiflorum L.

Family Name: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Synonyms: Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tomentosum
Common Name: Holy Basil, Sacred Basil, Tulsi, 圣罗勒, 九层塔

Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Holy Basil, is a perennial herb with softly hairy leaves that are rich in health-promoting antioxidants and flavonoids. When crushed, leaves smell like clove, mint, and Italian basil, and are used as a culinary herb for their spicy and bitter flavour. The plant is sacred to Hindus who place lighted lamps near it during the religious ceremonies of Deepavali, the Festival of Lights.


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Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Shrubby
Maximum Height 30 cm to 60 cm


Native Distribution Tropical and Subtropical Asia, Queensland
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Cryptogenic

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Perennial up to 0.6 m tall with some woody tissue at the stem bases. It has an erect growth form which is highly branched.
Foliage Leaves are broadly elliptical with a slightly toothed leaf margin (1.5-6 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide). The leaf surface is pubescent (densely covered in short hairs). Crushed leaves emit a musky, slightly minty fragrance. Leaves are arranged in pairs with adjacent pairs perpendicular to one another.
Stems Four-sided stems are purplish and hairy.
Flowers Pink or white flowers are tubular and 2-lipped. Small clusters of 3 flowers are arranged in pairs along a spike-like, racemose inflorescence (8-10 cm long).
Fruit The fruit is composed of 4 tiny, one-seeded nutlets.
Associated Fauna Flowers attracts Small Mason bees and Sweat bees, pollens.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Leaves
Food (Herb and Spice): It is sometimes used as spice, but more commonly used for medicinal purposes. It is used to flavour salads and dishes containing fruit, fish and chicken.

Scientific Evidence of Medicinal Properties

In both pre-clinical and clinical trials, Holy Basil demonstrated anti-diabetic (Godhwani et al., 1987; Agrawal & Singh, 1996), anti-microbial (Mamta et al., 2014; Megalaa et al., 2018), and cholesterol-lowering properties (Rachmawati et al., 2019; Agrawal & Singh, 1996) in animals and people, respectively.

In pre-clinical trials, Holy Basil also showed pain-relieving (Singh & Majumdar, 2008), anti-cancer (Karthikeyan et al., 2008), anti-inflammation (Godhwani et al., 1987), antioxidant (Shetty et al., 2007), and anti-malarial properties (Banyal et al., 2015) in animals.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Research supports the traditional use of Holy Basil tea brewed from the leaves as a treatment for colds, cough and congestion. 

It is important to note that some therapeutic effects from traditional medicinal uses of plants are not currently supported or verified by scientific research. 

Cultural / Religious: The Hindus regard this species as sacred and symbolic of loyalty and perfect love. They often plant it in courtyards and temple gardens.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Fragrant (Foliage)
Landscape Uses Container Planting
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bee-Attracting

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Rootzone Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Velvety / Furry / Tomentose
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Serrate / Toothed
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Acute
Typical Foliar Area Microphyll ( 2.25cm2 - 20.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Pink, White
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Individual Flower Shape Tubular
Flowering Habit Polycarpic
Inflorescence Type Remarks Racemose
Flower Size 3 mm
Inflorescence Size 9 cm

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Indehiscent Dry Fruit , Nut / Nutlet



Agrawal, P., Rai, V. & Singh, R.B. (1996). Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 34(9): 406–409.

de Guzman, C.C. & Siemonsma, J.S. (1999). Plant Resources of South-East Asia, Spices, vol. 13. Leiden: Backhuys Publishers.

Godhwani, S., Godhwani, J.L. & Vyas, D.S. (1987). Ocimum sanctum: An experimental study evaluating its anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activity in animals. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 21(2): 153–163.

Karthikeyan, K., Gunasekaran, P., Ramamurthy, N. & Govindasamy, S. (1999). Anticancer activity of Ocimum sanctumPharmaceutical Biology 37(4): 285–290.

Lawton, B.P. (2002) Mints: A Family of Herbs and Ornamentals. USA: Timber Press.

Mamta, K., Gupta, R.P. & Sharma, R. (2014). Biochemical and immunological response of Ocimum sanctum in chickens experimentally infected with Escherichia coliIndian Journal of Veterinary Pathology 38(2): 98–102.

Megalaa, N., Thirumurugan, K., Kayalvizhi, G., Sajeev, R., Kayalvizhi, E.B., Ramesh, V. & Vargeese, A. (2018). A comparative evaluation of the anticaries efficacy of herbal extracts (Tulsi and Black myrobalans) and sodium fluoride as mouthrinses in children: A randomized controlled trial. Indian Journal of Dental Research 29(6): 760–767.

Rachmawati, N.A., Wasita, B. & Kartikasari, L.R. (2019). Basil leaves (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) extract decreases total cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemia Sprague Dawley rats model. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering 546(6): Article ID 062020.

Shetty, S., Udupa, S. & Udupa, L. (2008). Evaluation of antioxidant and wound healing effects of alcoholic and aqueous extract of Ocimum sanctum Linn in rats. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 5: Article ID 428796.

Singh, S. & Majumdar, D.K. (1995). Analgesic activity of Ocimum sanctum and its possible mechanism of action. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 33(3): 188–192. 

Image Repository



Master ID 981
Species ID 2275
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 01 November 2023.